See You Then @Nashville Film Festival
What happens in the film See You Then is nothing alien, if you’re a full-grown adult who has lived any kind of life at all: two adult human beings, who are each other’s exes, get together for dinner/drinks/ruminating about the past. We’ve all done it; this summer, I even did a multi-state road trip with an ex and my wife They got along famously…and we all realized that it turns out I do have a type).
So why bother making such a movie? What are we going to see that we haven’t lived ourselves? In the case of See You Then, which was part of the film lineup at SXSW 2021, there’s a lot we’ve probably never seen that this couple has.
Kris (Pooya Moheni) is a network security administrator, and Naomi (Lynn Chen) is an art professor at a small college who used to do performance art. That’s not the most interesting “used to” in the story: when they were dating, Kris was living as a male. In the thirteen years since they’ve seen each other, Kris has fully transitioned Lest you fear the film is something along the Tilda Swinton model, Moheni is herself a trans person, as is the director of the film, Mari Walker; if representation could be any more thorough than that, I’m at a loss for how—not that my cisgender ass has a dog in that fight.
Kris’s transition drives a considerable percentage of the dialogue, not surprisingly; it’s laid out for us equally through questions Naomi has, and info that Kris elects to divulge without being asked, having realistically expected that Naomi would want to know. Kris has learned, for example, that workplaces (especially those in IT) are in fact difficult for women, and that the Internet, for trans persons, can veer from supportive environment to minefield in a matter of moments. Her dialogue about these points—and most other points—can be difficult to take in, but is worth taking in. It’s easy to write off what she says as shots across the bow of one’s privilege (if one has privilege), but it’s also mission-critical for those of us with privilege to be aware of what she’s discussing so we can prevent ourselves being part of the problem.
All that having been said, while Kris is essentially the focal point of the movie, it’s about Naomi as well, and she’s given no kind of short shrift. I mentioned earlier that Naomi used to be a performance artist; as the film progresses, we learn why that (and most of her other artistic endevours) fell by the wayside—she has married and had children. Her insights about family life are as pointed and real as are Kris’s insights about transitioning and gender; her experiences, as she tells them, are nothing alien if you’re a full-grown adult who has had to negotiate a balance between artistic pursuits and family.
Lynn Chen is excellent as Naomi, and a great counterpart to Moheni’s Kris; each presents herself as a gatekeeper to a very exclusive subculture, while openly wondering about what she’s missing by not being in the other’s world. (The dynamic between the characters is reminiscent of the dynamic between Rod Steiger’s Sheriff Gillespie and Sidney Poitier’s Mr. Tibbs in In The Heat of the Night—two individuals whose inner BS detectors are flawless, as long as they aren’t pointing inward.)
We follow Kris and Naomi out of a restaurant into a bar (Kris insists on sharing a drink), and we finally see the only other characters of any weight in the film—a cartoonishly “male” professor (Danny Jacobs) who flirts with both women, and a surprisingly decent professor (Nican Robinson), who also flirts, but exclusively with Kris. Neither man ever seems to realize that they’re hitting on a former man, which is played for comic effect in one instance, and semi-tragic in another—Robinson seems genuine and sincere, but Kris rebuffs his advances, to Naomi’s surprise.
From the bar, our heroines proceed to the art studio at Naomi’s college campus, where their night of discussion comes to a head, and an awkward, painful one at that, it turns out that Naomi has resented Kris for 13 years—for leaving the relationship without explaining why, let alone that she identified as female—and Kris, without knowing it, has had reason to resent Naomi, a reason that, upon its reveal, dropped the collective jaws of the audience (including my own). The conversation that has defined the film throughout ends shortly—almost abruptly—thereafter, leaving two more scenes which indicate a closure of sorts for each character. It’s a closure that beings the film’s title into focus—it’s an expressed hope that, when you see someone years after the fact of your relationship, that you will see them then—as they are and as they were. I reiterate, if you’re a full-grown adult navigating time and humanity, this film is worth your time.
US Rights to this film have been acquired by Breaking Glass.